European U21 Championship: Hosts Denmark stay alive with win over Belarus; Switzerland close in on semi-final spot

Fabian Frei and Innocent Emeghara were on the scoresheet as Switzerland moved into pole position to qualify for the semi-final, while Denmark kept their final four hopes alive


Switzerland 2-0 Iceland

Switzerland have one foot in the the semi-finals of the European Under-21 Championship after picking up their second group win following a 2-0 win over Iceland.

The Swiss got off to a flying start against Iceland, with Fabian Frei latching on to Xherdan Shaqiri’s pass to finish emphatically with less than a minute on the clock. Haraldur Bjornsson made great saves to deny Shaqiri and Mario Gavranovic, while Innocent Emeghara flashed a shot narrowly over.

With 40 minutes on the clock Emeghara added a second Swiss goal with a left foot shot that bobbled over the line via Bjornsson’s foot. The second half was uninspiring as the grou leaders took their foot off the gas. Rurik Gislason had an effort ruled out for offside, but the Icelandic team rarely threatened Yann Sommer’s goal, while the Swiss were more conservative, as they looked to make sure they did not squander their lead.

This result ensured the Swiss head into the final group game against Belarus top of the group and needing just one point to seal their berth in the last four.

Denmark 2-1 Belarus

Tournament hosts Denmark kept their hopes of semi-final qualification alive with a come-from-behind 2-1 win.

The Belarusian side, who were so impressive against Iceland on Saturday, came close to taking an early lead, but Stanislav Dragun couldn’t make clean enough contact on the ball as he flew in for a set-piece.

Belarus were to eventually take the lead after 20 minutes, with Dmitri Baga taking advantage of a static Danish defence, rounding  Mikkel Anderson and coolly finishing into an empty net. Within seconds, though, their elation turned to despair. Belarus ‘skipper Mikhail Sivakov bundled over Nicolai Jorgensen, and although Aleksandr Gutor saved Christian Eriksen’s penalty, the ball fell kindly to the Ajax playmaker, who rolled the rebound over the line.

Denmark started the second period strongly, with Eriksen and Jensen forcing top saves from Gutor. However, there was nothing the BATE ‘keeper could do about Nicolai Jorgensen’s 20-yard drive, which flew into the net after the striker cut in from the left. Belarus’ fatigue became obvious as the match went on and they failed to test Denmark’s lead and the hosts held on for a crucial victory.

As things stand in Group A, Belarus are ahead of Denmark on goal difference with both teams levelled on three points. The Danes must secure a better result than the Belarusians in the final group match to leapfrog into second spot.